Solo Set and Mental Exercise

22:35 Thu 14 May 2009
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I recently started playing the daily Set puzzle again, and was thinking about other ways to play the game without other players.

The reason I’m interested in doing so is that Set seems to act as a fairly good mental warm-up for me.

It’s possible to play it alone against the clock, although that doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. I should probably try that out.

Another way, requiring only the cards and no significant playing area, is to take two cards at a time from a randomized Set deck and figure out what the third card in the set is. I found that there are (at least) two ways to do this: the first involves saying (or thinking, verbally) what the third card would have on it, e.g. “three solid purple squiggles”. The other way is to visualize the third card. I focused on the second way, but I suspect that they operate on slightly different parts of the brain and that I should alternate.

I thought I’d get through the deck within three minutes on my first try, but only got through 68 cards in that span of time; I suspect I’ll get faster with some practice. It does seem to help in terms of being a mental warm-up.

Now to come up with a simple but challenging exercise that can be done with random MTG cards. Hmm.

First idea: the first card is the problem, the second card is the solution, Mental Magic-style. That is, the puzzle is to come up with a card that has the second card’s mana cost that deals with the first card. Some leeway is probably required, as occurred with my first test: the first card was Obelisk of Bant, a mana-producing colorless artifact, and the second was Sigil Blessing, a card with the mana cost of WG. I couldn’t think of a single WG card that would take out Obelisk of Bant, but did come up with Glittering Wish for Putrefy, which works. It appears that there are no WG-costed cards that destroy and artifact, so I think this is fine as a solution, but if there had been, then I think the “search” solution would have been invalid. The main problem with this idea for a solo game is that it mainly tests memory, not puzzle-solving; another issue is that it might be easy to encounter cards that just don’t go well together. But it might have some worth anyway.

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